The Welsh Liberal Democrats have called on Wales’ police forces to stop using a 200-year old law to arrest and prosecute rough sleepers, after a senior police officer admitted there was no consistent policy on its use.
Jeremy Vaughan, Assistant Chief Constable of South Wales Police, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning that “we don’t have an arrest policy” on use of the disputed Vagrancy Act, despite the force arresting 48 people under the Act in the 12 months to April 2019.
Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran has led the campaign in Westminster to repeal the Vagrancy Act (1824), which many forces in England choose not to use and which has already been repealed in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Jane Dodds, Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, said:
“It’s quite frankly shocking that a police force as large as South Wales has no consistent policy on using this outdated law, despite dozens being arrested because of it in the last year.
“The growing number of people homeless and begging on our streets is a national tragedy, and as Jeremy Vaughan admitted this morning there is no instance where arresting them will help solve their problems.
“Many police forces in England choose not to use this 200-year-old law because they know it’s unfit for the modern age. South Wales Police and the rest of Wales’ forces should follow suit and abandon this arcane law.”
The admission comes as housing charity Crisis launch their report into the case for repealing the Vagrancy Act.
The report says that the Act “does not tackle the problems people have, and there is evidence that it can also push people further from the help they need.”
Speaking ahead of the launch, Lib Dem MP Layla Moran said:
“I absolutely welcome the publication of this report. You can’t ignore the evidence and it is clear that the Government needs to repeal the Dickensian Vagrancy Act. It is making many people’s situation even worse.
“Now is the time to act. I will not stop campaigning until we have scrapped this cruel law and we take a more compassionate approach to the homelessness crisis we are facing in this country.
“Almost 600 homeless people died on our streets in 2017 alone. We need to end this ‘out of sight, out of mind’ attitude that the Act promotes and get on with fixing the problem.”
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